After most car accidents in Georgia, police will arrive and make a report. A police report is incredibly useful in a personal injury case, and there have been changes in the law regarding its use as evidence in a trial.
Fortunately, a Georgia personal injury lawyer can help you obtain your police report and determine how to use it properly. Police reports contain information considered hearsay and would have traditionally been blocked from being admitted as evidence. However, recent changes in Georgia’s evidentiary rules now allow police reports to be admitted as evidence to prove the truth of how an accident occurred. In addition, police reports are filled with other information that will be highly important when investigating your case.
If you need help interpreting your police report, our Georgia personal injury lawyers can provide you with a free case review today. Contact Howe Law at (844) 876-4357.
Are Police Reports Admissible in a Georgia Injury Case?
In many states, police reports are prevented from being admitted as evidence to show how an accident occurred. However, this is not the case in Georgia lawsuits. In Georgia, police reports can be admitted as evidence to assert the truth of how an injury was caused, even though it is considered hearsay under Georgia law.
Georgia Hearsay Rules
According to Georgia Rule of Evidence 802, hearsay is generally inadmissible at trial.. This is because statements made by individuals not present to testify at trial are not considered as trustworthy as those made while testifying in court, where opposing counsel can question a witness. Hearsay is defined as a statement made by someone other than the person testifying at the trial that is offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted.
Statements made by officers in their reports are considered hearsay under the general rule. However, certain parts of a police report can be admitted as evidence if the statements in question fall under one of the exceptions to Georgia’s hearsay rule.
Hearsay Exception for Public Records
In Georgia, statements made by an investigating officer contained within a police report are admissible under Georgia Rule of Evidence 803(8), the hearsay exception for public records. This means that observations and opinions made by the reporting officer are admissible and can be used to prove how an injury occurred and who caused it. This can include observing skid marks or opining on who was at fault for an accident.
To successfully admit a police report as evidence under this exception, the report must document the regular activities of a public office or agency and made by an individual duty to make the report. Lastly, the record must be trustworthy, but the side opposing the statements admission have the burden of proving that the record is untrustworthy in some way.
However, an officer’s statements are only admissible if they are made directly by the officer. Observations and opinions made by parties other than the officer, like witnesses, will not be admissible under 803(8). However, those statements could be admissible if they fall under one of the other exceptions for hearsay in court.
Hearsay Exceptions for Statements Made by Witnesses
If a witness made a statement to police that was recorded in their report, it is considered hearsay and is inadmissible unless an exception applies. For instance, if the statement was describing or explaining the accident immediately after it happened, it might be admissible under Georgia Rule of Evidence 803(1), the exception for present sense impression. A statement could also be admissible under Rule 803(2) if the witness was describing their then existing state of mind, emotion, sensation, or physical condition following an accident.
If the statement in the report was made by the defendant in your case, those statements are not technically considered hearsay since the defendant in present in court. An opposing parties statements from a police report can be admitted under Rule 801(d)(2)(A). Our Atlanta personal injury lawyers can help you determine what information in your police report could be admissible at trial.
How Else Can a Police Report Help My Georgia Injury Case?
There are several other uses for a police report besides being a vital evidence source in court. Our Macon personal injury lawyers and insurance companies will often use a victim’s police report as a starting point to investigate an accident. Police reports can also be used as a legal tool during a trial when questioning witnesses.
Investigating an Injury Case
Police reports are incredibly useful when building your personal injury case. Police reports often contain detailed explanations of how an accident occurred, including diagrams showing the layout of an accident. A police report will also include the names and contact information of any witnesses that reported to the officer after the accident. While a witness’s statements in a police report will likely be inadmissible at trial, it can help identify witnesses who can be interviewed and questioned later.
Ideally, you will have the officer that made your police report testify during your trial. However, a significant time will likely have passed by the time the officer does testify. If the officer has dealt with other accidents since yours, their memory of your accident might not be great. Fortunately, you can use a police report to refresh the officer’s recollection. If a reporting officer forgets certain elements within their report while testifying, the police report can be used to refresh their recollection of what happened in your accident. A police report can also be used to refresh the recollection of other witnesses who are having trouble recalling the details of the event.
Impeaching a Witness
Police reports can also be used to challenge the truthfulness of a testifying witness’s statements. Suppose a witness or the defendant reported one thing to officers after the accident but testified to the opposite. In that case, the police report can show the inconsistency between the witness’s two statements. This implies that the witness is either lying now or was then, or that their memory of the event is so poor as not to be trusted. Our Savannah personal injury lawyers can review your police report to determine the best uses for it in your case.
Can I Dispute Inaccurate Information Contained in My Georgia Police Report?
Unfortunately, officers might inaccurately record information in their reports. If the information a reporting officer collects is incorrect or incomplete, it is possible to challenge the report. However, it can be difficult to challenge a report once it is filed. In some cases, it might be possible to persuade an investigating officer to change their report, but a victim should not assume it will always be the case. Most officers are reluctant to change their reports once filed.
If the reporting officer refuses to edit their report, it will be necessary to challenge it in court. Our Georgia personal injury lawyers can help you if your police report contains errors impacting your chances of recovering compensation.
Our Georgia Personal Injury Lawyers Can Help
For a free review of your potential injury case, call the Valdosta personal injury lawyers at Howe Law today at (844) 876-4357.